Influence on social media is definitely a topic of conversation among public relations professionals. Some feel that it is just based on how many followers a person has, or how “popular” they are in certain circles. Others say that it is important to focus on the content of information they are sharing, and how they are perceived in terms of their online reputation. There seems to be so many different variables to consider!
So, what exactly does it mean to have influence on social media? Brian Solis has defined influence on social media as being “naturally tied to individuals, where the extent, level, and effect of leverage or authority coalesces and contributes to a stature of varying degrees.” Many professionals have discussed this very issue in public relations, including scholars and professionals that have categorized these individuals as social media influencers (or otherwise known as SMIs). These individuals have a strong following on their various social media platforms, but they share different characteristics compared to others that are deemed to be influential in society, business, and in other circles that people are in. The question is – can public relations professionals determine what exactly who these individuals are based on whether or not they have specific personality characteristics? Well, it is indeed possible – and more research is being done in this area to determine it. But, if I were to highlight some characteristics of what social media influence is, here are some that I would recommend that public relations professionals look at in terms of analyzing the DNA of social media influence:
- Engagement: Having a consistent interaction and willingness to share information with others in the online community does create influence in certain areas. Understanding that information is not only powerful, but if a person is willing to pass along their experiences, tips and best practices, and advice to others in an open forum, people are going to be more likely to listen to this individual. Social media is all about collaboration, dialogue, and sharing opinions and information with each other on a dynamic platform.
- Strong Following – Quality vs. Quantity: This does not necessarily mean thousands upon thousands of followers – but what it does mean that the quality of the individuals that are following and listening to what the person is saying does constitute as influence. In regards to social media, it is important to recognize that quality of followers is more important than quantity.
- Creating relationships online: Vocus and Brian Solis recently published the Influencer Study that showed that relationships among influential people on social media is key. People want to listen and interact with others online that they feel comfortable with and that they are in this for the long run, not just to convince them in the short term to invest in this cause or purchase a certain product. Relationships and managing them proactively are one of the strengths of influencers on social media. Here is the post on this study on Brian Solis’s website in case you would like to read further on this.
- Consistency in online and offline behavior and interactions for reputation: Those with influence online most likely have it offline – what is important is the fact that you want to be consistent with your interactions and posts online as you would be in practice and in your research in real life. By doing this, you will have a balanced reputation, which creates influence and trust among others in the online community.
- Showcasing charisma and personality: People do not want to interact with a robot online – they want their conversations to be personalized, positive, and interactive. Individuals that are able to show others online who they are as a person, what are their likes and dislikes, hobbies, and a little bit about themselves – they will create a following on social media. Social media does present a window of opportunity for people to get to know each other in various forms – whether it is through social networking sites like Facebook or communicating via tweets on Twitter, or even posting videos and podcasts where they talk about various business issues that are important to them. Plus, blogs also serve as a great way to show people what areas and issues you care about in a written format. Passion, personality, and charisma do contribute to trustworthiness and credibility on social media.
These are just a few points that I believe are part of the DNA sequence of social media influence. Are there others? Of course – but public relations professionals need to explore this further with research, talking with other professionals working in the industry, and talk with online audiences on who they think is influential, and what key personality characteristics they feel are key for them to listen to an individual on social media. It is an exciting area to be in, and I believe that it will continue to evolve and change as the technology does. Hope you all are having a wonderful day!